Assembly of First Nations Day of Action a Huge Success
Protests Unite Communities Around Demands for Indigenous Rights and Self-Determination
By Nita Palmer
On June 29, 2007, Indigenous people, organizations and their supporters from all across Canada came together on a day of “Solidarity for Aboriginal Justice”. The day of action, called by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and organized by a wide variety of groups in over a hundred different communities, was an important showing of unity in the fight for Indigenous rights and sovereignty.
In Vancouver, an action organized by the AFN-BC, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and the First Nations Summit brought out almost 400 people to a march from Queen Elizabeth Park to a rally at the Vancouver Public Library. Indigenous organizations, anti-war groups, unions and students’ unions came together for the action.
From rallies to press conferences to public education campaigns to highway blockades like the one in Deseronto, ON, the list of events on this day of action was as long as the list of demands brought forward by protesters attending the actions. The high rates of Indigenous poverty, the over 500 missing or murdered Indigenous women in Canada, struggles over fishing and resource rights and of course land rights struggles were just a few of the issues raised.
One of the June 29th actions was a blockade of Highway 401 and the CN Rail line near Deseronto, ON, organized to call attention to the high levels of Indigenous poverty in Canada, lack of access to health care and poor living conditions on reserves. One in four Native children living on reserve live in poverty, and in the urban Indigenous population that number climbs to 40%. Many Native communities also face a lack of access to basic necessities such as clean drinking water. Nearly 4% of the Native population – tens of thousands of people – does not have access to clean running water.
Other blockades were set up around the country as well. Just outside of Peterborough, ON, the Alderville First Nation set up a blockade of County Road 45, while members of the M’Chigeeng First Nation near Sudbury, ON, set up a blockade of Highway 17. Both were to call attention to the high levels of Indigenous poverty and the deplorable living conditions on Native reserves in Canada. At Six Nations, near Caledonia, ON, a protest was organized to call attention to the fact that Six Nations has not seen a single penny of profit from a casino illegally built on their land. Over the last two years, the people of Six Nations have brought attention to Indigenous land rights struggles in their ongoing battle with the governments of Canada and Ontario and a development corporation against an illegal housing development on their land.
Whether it was a direct land confrontation, protests over Indigenous poverty and third-world living conditions on reserves, or demands that Indigenous people be afforded the same access to health care and education as Canadians, the June 29th Day of Action showed the importance of the struggle for Indigenous rights and self-determination. The Day of Action was important in the unity it brought between Indigenous people from Vancouver to Halifax and the support it brought from many non-Native groups. We need continuing action like this to demand that the inherent rights of Indigenous people to control their own land and their own resources and to govern their own affairs without the interference of the government of Canada be upheld.
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